Heart-shaped brooch

During the medieval period the two main themes in jewellery were religion and love. The heart shape and inscription show that this ring brooch was a love token.

Ring brooches were used to fasten tunics, gowns and cloaks. The front of the brooch is engraved with stylised foliage to form a decorative pattern. Originally this would have been richly enamelled.

Heart-shaped brooch

 

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Heart-shaped brooch

England or France, about 1400
Gold, formerly enamelled
V&A: 86-1899

Brooch from the Fishpool Hoard

 

The heart-shaped brooch pictured here shows how the V&A brooch may have looked with its original enamel decoration. It is inscribed on the back in French ‘I am wholly yours’.

The brooch is part of a hoard of 15th-century jewellery found at Fishpool, near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire. These jewels were either imported from the mainland Europe or made in England.

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Brooch from the Fishpool Hoard

Possibly the Southern Netherlands, about 1450
Gold and enamel

© Copyright the Trustees of The British Museum, London

 

Ring brooches were often given as gifts. Their inscriptions could contain love messages, charms or prayers. They were believed to protect the wearer and bring good fortune.

Made of costly gold or silver, or the much cheaper copper, or iron, they were often plain, but occasionally embellished with gems, enamel or inscriptions.

Miniature illustration from Decretum by Gratien

 

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Miniature illustration from Decretum by Gratien

France, about 1300-1400

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris
Stone effigy of Queen Berengaria

 

This drawing shows a ring brooch being worn. It depicts the tomb effigy of Queen Berengaria, wife of Richard I of England.

Her ring brooch, which would have been gold, holds her long surcoat together at the neck. The pin passes through the textile in the open centre of the brooch and is held in place by the circular frame.

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Stone effigy of Queen Berengaria

Abbaye de l’Epau, Le Mans, about 1200-1300
Drawing from The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain by Charles Alfred Stothard (1817)

National Art Library, V&A, L.4625-1889